Race to save bid to re-open historic Old White Bear pub
'There is a unanimous feeling among the community that the planning process has been heavily abused'
07 December, 2018 — By Dan Carrier
The Old White Bear
THE clock is ticking on a campaign to save one of London’s oldest pubs with its protective planning status about to run out.
The Old White Bear, on a site in Hampstead which has had a pub for 300 years, has been closed since 2014 but, to the delight of former regulars, has a new licensee ready to open it again.
While he has his plans in place, publican Dan Brod has not yet signed a lease with the building’s owner, Heathside Prep School, a private school using the first floor as a classroom.
The delay has meant the pub’s listing as an “asset of community value” at the Town Hall – special protection which makes it harder for developers to change the use of the building – is due to expire in January without a pint being poured in nearly half a decade.
If it is not renewed, campaigners fear the Well Road pub will never open again. Heathside, which hit the headlines in recent months after a highly-critical Ofsted report, was handed permission to use the upper floor on the basis that it would work with Mr Brod’s company, Bramley Bars, to get the pub open again.
Headteacher Melissa Remus has told the New Journal in the past that she plans to honour the promise to hand over the ground floor to the pub, but did not respond to requests this week to comment on why this has not so far happened.
Guy Wingate, of the Save The White Bear campaign, said: “There is a unanimous feeling among the community that the planning process has been heavily abused. When Camden Council granted dual-use permission for the upper floors of the pub, it was implicit in both the application letter and decision notice that this would happen under a lease to be issued to Bramley Bars, who then successfully applied for a new premises licence.”
He added: “Heathside School have gifted themselves a lease on the entire building. It is clearly a tremendously sad state of affairs for a community that has fought and continues to fight so hard for their community asset. But we are 100 per cent committed to supporting Dan Brod’s valiant efforts to get the doors to all floors of the pub reopened. The Old White Bear is first and foremost a pub and not a school or its canteen.”
The campaign group is calling for people in Hampstead to demonstrate to the Town Hall that the Bear is still valued – and that three centuries of history should not be lost.
Mr Wingate said: “The bar for renewal of an asset of community value status is much higher than for a new nomination. “One key test is whether there continues to be support within the community. We have had an overwhelming response, with 98.7 per cent stating they would definitely return if the pub were to open in the near future.”
He added: “We asked the optional question as to why residents feel that the Old White Bear is so important to Hampstead? After five years we were not expecting more than a dozen or so responses – at the time of writing, there have been over 300, the vast majority of which are heartwarming.”
Heathside did not respond to a request for a comment on plans for the building.